Back to "The Sarge" in '08 for USC baseball

Rumors, delays and unexpected granite have stained any news about the new baseball stadium. Years removed since arguments between the Bombers, the city and USC first surfaced, every time the project seemed to move forward, sour news would follow. At a Friday afternoon press conference, Coach Ray Tanner and Eric Hyman met with the press to make yet another ill-fated statement.

The news wasn't all bad. For those who can remain patient, there has been a 7.6 million dollar increase to the budget proposed, final word of which will come November 4th. The nearly 7,000 seat stadium, plush with suites, will be a top notch facility. A landmark in Columbia, there will be no shortcuts.

A project that initially started out on the desk of Mike McGee for 13 million will now be approximately 36 million.

The good news ended there though. "We have unanimously in favor and concluded that meeting the 2008 season opening date was not something that we felt like we could do. The challenge is the site," said Rick Kelly, the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. "It certainly has been something we've had to address continuously since we've been there. But even bigger than that is the fact that the cost of construction is enormously more expensive."

Not wanting to move into a new stadium in the middle of the season, all principles involved decided Thursday morning that unveiling the new stadium should be held back until February 2009.

He continued, "We realize that we're going to have one of the best baseball stadiums in the country. If we are going to do this, let's do it right."

With a bid on the street since September 6th, 2007, it'll be open to receive bids on October 24th. The bids will then be held unopened until November 4th when the Budget and Control Board have the opportunity to approve the budget increase.

If the Budget and Control Board were to decline the proposal, Kelly said there is no back-up plan in place. He feels confident the Board will approve the increase though. He feels they'll be supported once they hear all the facts associated with the proposal.

The way in which this multi-million dollar project even gets to such a point is a question asked regularly. To this, Kelly responded, "I don't know that I can adequately explain how geologists and geotechnical surveyors do their work and how they miss what they actually suggest."

Reiterating that the granite is not the biggest issue leading to delays, but the cost of construction increase over the last four or five years. He gave examples to back the claim, stating, "Look at the Honors College that we estimated would be 41 million dollars and the low bid came in at 53."

Coach Ray Tanner was more concerned about some of his players like Justin Smoak and James Darnell, who will almost assuredly be drafted and not return to school for a stadium they thought would be opened before their sophomore year.

"Well, that was an immediate concern, but they're resilient. They understand. As I explained to them the other day, we only have one chance to do this thing right," said Tanner. "By nature, I think it's coaches who are the most impatient. I want it to be right. I want it to be a showplace."

The schedule may need to be coaxed and manipulated more than any player or coach. With big games scheduled to mark the opening in 2008, Coach Tanner said, "I may have to do some tweaking (to the beginning of the 2008 schedule)."

Tanner did say that "relief" was a good way to describe the decision. Alluding to the unknown, he said it effected recruiting conversations and time management the most. No more, assuming the Board does approve the budget enhancement proposal, will there be unknowns. Coach Tanner can look a recruit in the eye and tell him a definite answer.

He discussed the timeline for baseball activities being stretched out to Fall 2008.

"I think this will give us time to get in there and kick (the season) off with some time in the stadium," said Tanner. "Quite honestly, if we didn't have the entire fall, it would have almost been like opening up on the road in the beginning. It'll all work out."

The stadium should be a little under 7,000 seats with room for another 2,000 temporary seats for postseason play, plus suites and club seats.

Dates will be released by the University once there is an actual contractor on site regarding the erection of rafters, field, underground water, and much more.

So, what seemed inevitable has finally happened, but like Coach Tanner said, "We only have one chance to do it right."

Some might argue though that several chances have already passed by. Nonetheless, The Sarge gets to see another day, 470 extra days to be exact.

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